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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks weekly dish: One problem with Porkapalooza BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2016

There’s only one problem with Porkapalooza, the successful early summer barbecue food festival held last weekend (June 17 & 18, 2016) at Clarke Park/Stadium. Meat is sold by the 30 food vendors and food trucks on site. But only the judges taste the fabulous cooking from the 42 teams entered in the barbecue competition. It’s like watching beautiful plates of food go by at a fine restaurant, with none for you: To have one’s nose scrunched up against the window pane, gazing at goodies beyond your reach: To be told as a kid that it’s “FEL” night — Family Eat Less — at gramma’s Sunday night dinner. Unexpected relatives have shown up. It was to suffer, to downright suffer, to view, smell but not taste Darren Cave’s beautiful Scotch quail eggs as they were carried from the Red Boar BBQ team’s smoker across the festival grounds to the judges’ quarters for the (optional) ground pork cooking category. Instead, I had to buy barbecue ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Party in power matters not BY GRAHAM HICKS, Edmonton Sun FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2016

It’s not about the political party that happens to be in power. If Jim Prentice hadn’t called the Alberta election a year early, his Progressive Conservative Party would be in the same deep do-do as Rachel Notley’s New Democrats. It’s about a near unalterable reality that Albertans must face. This economic crisis isn’t going away. Global energy analysts predict world oil and gas prices will not recover for a very long time, probably decades. World-wide demand for fossil fuels is dramatically slowing. Supply just keeps on growing. There’s no way around it – Alberta’s over-all standard of living will have to drop. By how much, nobody knows. For the sake of argument, let’s say, conservatively, 10%. It matters not what party is in power. The gusher of cash from oil and gas is gone, not to return for many, many years. In Calgary, they call it the new “long low.” The marketplace, that cold-hearted beast, has already reacted, s ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton Oilers, job losses and more BY GRAHAM HICKS, Edmonton Sun FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, APRIL 08, 2016

A little bit of this, a little bit of that in Hicks on Biz this week – Living longer, bus depots in the middle of nowhere, cuppa coffee with the Oilers, job losses, farmland. Another minute in the spotlight Of the 133 former Oilers who gathered Wednesday to bid farewell to Rexall Place, about half the names were recognizable. The other half were here for a cuppa coffee, likely playing a few games before being sent back to the minors. Most of the guys have woulda, coulda, shoulda stories – untimely injuries, the GM didn’t like them, too many players at the position, never given a chance. Still, they made it to the Big Show, if even for a game or two, creating a treasured memory. Friends and relatives all know Joe Schmo was an Oiler for a few games. Now, thanks to this collegial gesture by Oiler management, they all enjoyed another moment of recognition.   Farewell oil-patch jobs, hello McJobs Interesting job statistics from a TD Bank study: The provincial job mark ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta is already a world leader in reducing CO2 emissions BY GRAHAM HICKS, POSTMEDIA NETWORK FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, MARCH 26, 2016

Okay, so we are expected to suck it up and take one for climate change. Soon, Alberta’s middle class families will be turning over hundreds more dollars a year in a carbon tax – i.e. much higher taxes on gasoline powering our vehicles and natural gas heating our homes, and who knows what else. This will raise billions of dollars, which will all be re-invested, Premier Rachel Notley promises, into ways and means of becoming a “carbon-free” province. Here’s my problem: Notley’s criticism of past Conservative governments for “not doing anything” about climate change is totally and absolutely wrong. Alberta – our research institutes, universities, energy companies and our unique Climate Change & Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) – was a global leader in reducing GHG (greenhouse gas emissions) well before Ms. Notley came to power, and continues to be a world leader. Let me count the ways. Up in the oilsands, most of the major ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: 5 ways to move our oil BY GRAHAM HICKS, POSTMEDIA NETWORK FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2016

Let's be realistic. Alberta's oil will not get to "tidewater" on either of Canada's coasts, not for 10 or 20 years. Those who believe fossil fuels are part of the climate change problem are winning the political battles in Ottawa, Quebec and British Columbia. New or expanded pipeline proposals that need regulatory approvals will not get built. Environmental reviews, appeals, appeals of appeals - are now so time-consuming and so expensive as to make new pipeline construction near-impossible. The only way increased production of oil - mostly heavy or diluted bitumen oil from the oilsands - can be moved is through existing pre-approved pipelines and rail lines. There's one realistic exception: New pipeline and new rail might be possible through friendly neighbouring jurisdictions. Canada currently exports 3.7 million barrels of oil per day (bpd). The currently transport system is keeping up, barely. Growth will still happen, slower than was predicted because of low oil prices, at an added 100,0 ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Daryl Katz sensed the time was right to get out of drug retail business BY GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 04, 2016

What was Daryl Katz doing, selling his Rexall drug store chain upon which he built his current fortune, for $3 billion to American pharmaceutical giant McKesson? It’s about being where the puck is going, not where it is. It’s about long-term vision, strategic transformation and deliberate disruption, about Katz becoming a global business player, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg. In the drug retail business, Katz sensed the time to exit is now, while the going is still good. Rexall is primarily a bunch of drugstores, but the North America drug business is increasingly consolidating into “vertical integration”. The same mega-companies, i.e. McKesson, manufacture, distribute and retail drugs. Katz didn’t see himself in drug manufacturing and distribution. He saw the storm clouds on the horizon if Rexall continued as only a drug retailer. Obviously he was offered good coin to sell to McKesson. Buying the Oilers in 2008, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Diversification and KMT Hepatech BY GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2016

In Northern Alberta, “diversification” is near impossible. At least 30% of the $306 billion that moved around Alberta’s economy in 2014 (the last year for which the province has these numbers) came directly from oil and gas production. CAPP – the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – pushes that figure up to 42% when including energy-sector dependents like oilfield maintenance, fabrication, accounting, legal services and so on. It’s pie-in-the-sky, quite ridiculous to suggest – as have several of our current provincial cabinet ministers – that Alberta can transition away from gas and oil production, yet maintain our quality of life. The answer, articulated so well by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and badly articulated by Alberta’s current New Democrat government, is that “diversification” should be primarily directed to the industry that we are really, really good at. The production, transportation and end-use of fossil ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Northlands, an existential crisis BY GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2016

While the city has been all a-buzz about Northland Park’s Vision 2020 that was released on Wednesday, an existential question has not been asked. Why does the City of Edmonton still need Northlands Park? In any emotion-free analysis, the most cost-effective way forward is to reduce Northlands’ operations down to its EXPO Convention Centre and K-Days, then shut down/sell off everything else. The case is cruel, given the not-for-profit Northlands willingly brought itself to the sacrificial alter for the greater good of Edmonton. Northlands gave up all hockey-related Rexall Place profits to the Oilers to keep the team in town back in the ‘90s. It has now accepted the closure of Rexall Place, sending all those concert profits over to the equally subsidized Rogers Place. Talk about signing your own death warrant. But for all the quality-of-life and greater-good arguments within the well-reasoned Vision 2020, there’s huge risk. To survive, Northlands is likely to forever suck furious ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton real estate market depends on full employment in public sector BY GRAHAM HICKS, POSTMEDIA NETWORK FIRST POSTED: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2016

You have to forgive realtors. They are relentlessly optimistic. The economy is dropping like a rock. A great time to buy! The economy is sizzling red-hot. A great time to sell! I was impressed with the reasonably objective research and conclusions of Edmonton realtor (and ex-accountant) Kathy Schmidt, in her monthly The Schmidt Report. The sky is not falling, she argues, not in Edmonton’s housing market. It has crashed down in Fort McMurray, it’s falling in Calgary, but here, we’re just a little overcast. Median house prices are down – about 3% — in most of Metropolitan Edmonton, a median price of about $340,000 compared to $350,000 at this time last year. (“Median” excludes the very top and very bottom ends of the housing market. At the top end, Edmonton houses listed at $600,000 or more are down more than 3%.) But the market, Schmidt says, is busy. More homes (houses and condos) were sold last month than were sold in January a year ago. Th ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Understanding carbon credits BY GRAHAM HICKS, POSTMEDIA NETWORK FIRST POSTED: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 04, 2016

Finally, through a company created to save the planet AND make money, I actually understand what “carbon credits” are all about. Airdrie-based Carbon Credit Solutions (CCS) Inc. partners up with folks (mostly farmers) who can create Alberta government-approved carbon credits. It assists in “making” these carbon credits, then buys and sells them, hopefully for a profit. Making a profit can’t be that difficult, not when the monetary value of these Alberta carbon credits should jump by 50% in a year’s time. That’s when the Notley government says it will raise the levy, basically a tax on excess carbon emission, from $20 to $30 a tonne on companies pushing too much CO2 up their smokestacks. (A tonne of CO2 is roughly the amount of CO2 an average coal-burning power plant sends up its smokestack every hour.) Companies either pay the levy, or they can purchase carbon credits from companies like CCS to offset excess CO2 emissions. The market value of a carbon cred ... Read the rest of entry »